Home > Dead in the Water (Deep Six #6)(8)

Dead in the Water (Deep Six #6)(8)
Author: Julie Ann Walker

   To say Cami was feeling antsy was an understatement. By the time Uncle John had radioed in to tell her it was finally time for her to meet them on the pier, her pacing had cut a path in the beach house’s floorboards through the furniture they’d stacked the night before.

   The satellite images of the hurricane made it look beautiful. Sweet even. Like the swirl of buttercream icing atop a cupcake. But Cami knew looks were deceiving.

   Julia was no confectioner’s creation. She was a three-hundred-mile wide roiling ball of wind, water, and fury. And like a bullet that’d been fired from the end of a gun, she was coming. There wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do to stop her.

   “Oh, thank Christ,” Cami breathed when she saw Uncle John point the sailboat’s nose toward the break in the reef.

   Her relief was short-lived, however. Watching the sailboat lifted aloft on the crest of a wave only to then see it be plunged down into a frothing, watery trough was enough to make her seasick despite standing on the sturdy boards of the pier.

   “Erp.” She lifted a hand to her mouth when her breakfast threatened a second act.

   She’d known it would be rough sailing when she volunteered to stay behind for the last of the salvage. But she hadn’t known it would be this rough.

   Digging into her small overnight bag, she pulled out the package of Dramamine Doc had given her. She’d downed one pill on the jog from the beach house to the pier. But looking at the outraged ocean, she knew one pill wasn’t going to cut it. Unless, of course, she wanted to spend her time on the catamaran hanging over the railing and puking her guts into the sea.

   Carefully placing the chalky-white disk on her tongue, she did her best to choke it down without benefit of water. Unfortunately, the sucker lodged in the middle of her throat like it came equipped with a set of fishhooks. By the time she managed to work it down her esophagus, she’d used up all the spit in her mouth and the sailboat had motored up to the end of the pier.

   Doc, all six-and-a-half lean, mean feet of him, jumped from the deck of the catamaran to tie off the boat just as the wind began to sing. It was a low, melancholy moan that had the hairs on the back of Cami’s neck standing stick straight.

   Doc’s too-long, forever-in-need-of-a-barber hair whipped around his face. The strands were darkened by seawater, but when they were dry they were a combination of colors that spanned the spectrum from medium brown to deep auburn to sandy blond.

   He was the calico cat of the Navy SEAL/marine salvor/arrogant-pain-in-the-ass world. And why she should find his lion’s mane so fascinating was anyone’s guess. But aside from his eyes, which were sea green and annoyingly enigmatic, and aside from his smile, which was wide and a little crooked, his wild head of hair was her favorite thing about him.

   And my least favorite thing about him? she thought. That’s easy. He’s a client.

   Camilla D’ Angelo never mixed business with pleasure. It was her one hard and fast rule. And she’d always found it easy to follow.

   Until Doc came along.

   What she wouldn’t give to go back to the night they met, before either of them had known who the other was. When she’d simply been a tourist out looking for a good time, and he’d simply been the golden god sitting across the bar. A stranger with a face like a slab of granite that’d been carved by the wind and rain and a look in his eye that told her he knew what it was to suffer.

   That’s what had prompted her to hop down from her barstool and go introduce herself to him. She’d always been a sucker for a guy who showed a little wear and tear.

   And boy oh boy, they’d had fun that night.

   Not as much fun as she would’ve liked, considering he’d passed out on the floor of her hotel room before he could make good on all the things his drunken kiss had promised.

   But fun all the same.

   And then, in the light of day, she’d discovered he wasn’t simply a tall drink of water who went by the succinct nickname of Doc. He was Dalton Simmons of Deep Six Salvage. Which meant she was his attorney. And that meant he was completely off-limits.

   Although, even if she had been one to mix business with pleasure, she got the distinct impression Doc would have put the kibosh on anything more between them. All his smoldering looks, dirty innuendos, and flirty smiles aside, ever since he’d learned she was a lawyer, he’d made it clear he held her chosen profession—and her by association—in the lowest regard.

   And yes, okay, most people didn’t have very high opinions of those who practiced the law. She blamed slimeballs like Roy Cohn and Rod Blagojevich for painting the lot of them as power hungry con artists. And yet, with Doc, she couldn’t help thinking there was more behind his derision.

   But whatevs.

   Because the long and short of it was they both had their reasons for not finishing what they’d started that first night. And since they couldn’t engage in the physical free-for-alls she fantasized about on a weekly basis—okay, nightly; it was nightly—she satisfied herself with their verbal skirmishes.

   Never in her life had she met anyone with a mind more agile than Doc’s. Trying to keep up with him, trying to best him, gave her a thrill like no other.

   The wind had gone from singing to sounding like the ominous opening score of a horror movie. Where the noise alone lets you know something truly awful is about to happen.

   Adjusting the shoulder strap on her overnight bag, she reached a hand toward Doc, needing his help to steady herself as she prepared to step onto the sailboat’s undulating…erp…deck.

   Instead of grabbing her outstretched fingers, however, Doc shook his head. “It’s too late!” he shouted above the sound of the waves slapping against the pier’s pilings. “The storm’s too close! We can’t outrun her! We’re staying!”

   “St-staying!” she sputtered, glancing back at the ramshackle beach house.

   She’d heard people use the phrase my heart sank. But she’d never experienced the sensation herself. She’d had her heart bruised a few times. And it’d been broken twice—the first time when she found out the truth about her father, and the second time when her mother called to tell her that her baby sister had died in a plane crash. But now, she would swear her heart was sitting in the soles of her feet.

   “We’re staying here?” she demanded incredulously. “Are you out of your whole damn mind?”

   “Better here than out on the water!” Doc shouted as LT appeared on the sailboat’s deck. The head of Deep Six Salvage had a heavy-looking duffel bag thrown over each shoulder. Four more were already piled on the teakwood decking at his feet.

   “Catch!” he yelled and Cami realized he was talking to her a split-second before one of the blue duffels sailed in her direction.

   She squealed but managed to snag the bag before it could hit the weathered boards of the pier. It was even heavier than it looked. Its impact knocked her off-balance and she stepped back to steady herself.

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